POWER station bosses in Oldbury are making plans to make sure the lights do not go out should the swine flu crisis worsen.

Joe Lamonby, Oldbury Power Station’s site director, said at a meeting that swine flu was the industry’s biggest concern at the moment but that contingency plans were being put in place should large numbers of the workforce be affected by the illness.

He said: "Swine flu is the biggest current concern at Oldbury and we have plans and preparations in place should we need to deal with significant levels of absence.

"We are looking at all shift patterns and maintenance regimes, clearly the nation doesn’t need all the power stations closing down because of flu.

"The biggest vulnerability is the operations staff because they run the station. We currently have five shifts that run the station round the clock but if need be we can reduce that to three shifts. We don’t want to get to the point where the plant would have to shut down."

Mr Lamonby admitted that there were currently a number of staff off work with flu-like symptoms and that as a result there had been an increase in routine cleaning regimes on site.

Paul Mountford-Lister, lead regulator from the Environment Agency at Oldbury, said: "Flu is a priority at the moment. We are being told to expect to lose up to 30 percent of our staff at one time but we are making good provision. There is back-up to come to Oldbury if necessary."

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) estimated that there were 100,000 new cases of swine flu last week in the UK. The groups most affected were the under five-year-olds and those aged between five and 14 years.

The majority of cases of swine flu continue to be mild but there have been 26 deaths in England and three in Scotland.

The government has launched a new website with information about swine flu. For more information visit www.direct.gov.uk/swineflu You can also call the National Flu Service for more information on 0800 1 513 100.